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Corn Dust: and Unsuspected Hazard

Corn Dust: and Unsuspected Hazard

It’s been nearly a year since an explosion at Didion Milling Facility in Cambria killed five people and injured 14 more. To make the matter even more shocking, was the initial cause of the devastating explosion. The findings of the newly released report, from the Chemical Safety Board (CSB), was that it was corn dust released into the air that caused the massive explosion. This is another tragic example of accidents that can occur with combustible dust.

Though it may not seem dangerous, accumulations of dust can be hazardous. Combustible dust occurs as dust accumulates in a work area, such as a factory or shop. If this dust is disturbed it can be suspended in air. With these conditions met all that is needed is for an ignition source, and If these combustible particles are ignited, they can cause deadly explosions.

There are many different types of dust that can cause these explosions. Many organic materials, such as grains and wood, can act as combustible dust. Certain metals, paints, even pharmaceuticals can act as a combustible dust and result in massive damage. West Pharmaceutical Services, based out of North Carolina, learned how devastating these dangers can be when their plant exploded, resulting in six deaths and dozens of injuries.

In the case of Didion, the CSB concluded that corn dust was dispersed into the facility from an air filter that blew off an intake line. Flames from the faulty device ignited the suspended dust and a massive explosion followed. 5 people were killed as a result of the explosion and collapsing buildings. 14 more were injured, some with life-threatening injuries. Four of the nine buildings collapsed, the remaining five were seriously damaged.

OSHA cited Didion with serious violations and suggested that the company pay two-million in fines for the accident.

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